Viruses like Covid-19 make no distinction between those they infect. They should in theory cause disease in the rich just as they do the poor and pay no heed to social status or cultural background. But in practice the pandemic has widened the gulf between vulnerable groups and other populations in Europe rather than helping to level out inequalities in society, researchers warn.
Finding new viruses is easy – the hard part is understanding which ones cause disease, says Dr Lia van der Hoek, a virologist from the Amsterdam UMC, the Netherlands, who discovered a human coronavirus called NL63, in 2003.
Four huge robot arms surround the gleaming metal shell of what will soon be a top-of-the-range automobile. They jerk into life, attaching the bonnet, the wing mirrors, and other panels. It’s the kind of precision operation you can find at car factories around the world these days. But here’s a question worth considering: could we pull off a feat like this only about a billion times smaller?
Only in cancer medicine do we aim to attack and kill legions of our own cells. But healthy bystander cells often get caught in deadly crossfire, which is why cancer treatments can cause severe side effects in patients.
Amid global vaccine rollouts, with nearly 1.2 billion doses currently administered, some countries have recommended a mixed-dose approach where a first prime shot is followed by a booster of a second type.
How do you design and build a robot that you can’t even see? And what would you use it for? In May, Horizon explores the developing field of nanorobotics and its potential applications. We speak to Prof. Brad Nelson at ETH Zurich in Switzerland whose team found that the nanobots they were working on destroyed the drugs they were meant to be delivering, so are now repurposing them to purify water. We speak to researchers who are using the origami-like properties of DNA to make tools such as nanorobotic boxes with lids that open, and others that have created a molecular robotic arm that can pick up, reposition and release molecules. And because tasks like going into a blood vessel to dissolve a dangerous clot would be ideal for a nanorobot, we find out how scientists are devising ways to enable nanorobots to travel through the bloodstream.
The successful development of mRNA vaccines for Covid-19 is ‘transformational’ and opens the doors to new types of vaccines for other infectious diseases as well as cancer, according to Dr Özlem Türeci and Dr Uğur Şahin, the co-founders of Germany’s BioNTech.
Researchers are investigating links between microbes and rare earth elements.
We asked five young bioeconomy researchers to set out their vision.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.